Consistency between Qur'an and Modern Science
Cosmology is the branch of astronomy concerned with the origin, structure and evolution of the universe as a whole. Throughout history, science and religion have sought to explain the universe, and often have conflicted in their explanations. Modern cosmology, which applies particular mathematical relationships and scientific theories in search of an explanation, is mostly a product of the twentieth century. Today’s cosmological research is based on a mathematical description of the universe which Albert Einstein developed in the context of his theories of special and general relativity in the early 1900s.
These theories involve a lot of very sophisticated mathematics for a full understanding. Basically, they concern the laws of motion under high speeds approaching the speed of light (special relativity) and the impact of strong gravitational fields (general relativity) applied to the explanation of cosmological phenomena. What is a wonder and an indication of the universality of Islam is that several of the key scientific findings in modern cosmology, according to some scientists, seem to be reflected in the Noble Quran, revealed by Allaah to the Prophet Muhammad , more than 1400 years ago.
These findings are: (a) the 'big bang theory' of how the universe began; (b) the expansion of the universe and (c) relativity of time.
The Big Bang Theory and the Unity of Creation
Most cosmologists today have accepted the Big Bang Theory in describing the
origin of the universe. This theory states that the universe began at a single
hot, dense point, or 'singularity'. Out of this point developed what is often
referred to as 'cosmic soup', a constant interchange between matter and energy
with no separation between stars and planets or the heavens and the Earth as we
In essence, the initial unity of creation continues to exist, not in the form of a singularity, but through various bonding relationships that allow multiple forms of creation to maintain their linkage to the initial 'oneness' of the universe.
The Expansion and Structure of the Universe
The Quran points to the continued expansion of the universe in the verse which means: "And the heaven We constructed with strength, and indeed, We are [its] expander." [Quran: 51:47] In 1929, American astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the farther a galaxy was from the Earth, the greater the speed of its outward movement. In fact, he found the movement of a galaxy to be directly proportional to its distance. This means that if a galaxy is ten times as far away as another galaxy, it is moving at ten times the speed.
Based on this discovery, and other observations, scientists have concluded that the universe is expanding. Furthermore, Dr. Haruk Nurbaki, in his book 'Verses of the Koran and Facts of Science', states that the Quran also suggests a structure of the universe which corresponds to modern scientific findings. The Quran states what means: "[It is Allaah] who created the seven heavens in layers." [Quran: 67: 3]
Dr. Nurbaki correlates the reference to the seven heavens with the descriptions of cosmic regions by modern scientists. He states that when one looks at space from Earth, he is surrounded by seven magnetic fields extending into the infinity of space. These fields consist of (i) the spatial field occupied by Earth and the rest of the solar system; (ii) the spatial field of the Earth’s galaxy, the Milky Way; (iii) the spatial field occupied by a 'local cluster' of galaxies to which the Milky Way belongs; (iv) the central magnetic field of the universe represented by a collectivity of clustered galaxies; (v) the band represented by quasars, which serve as 'star hatcheries'; (vi) the field of the expanding universe, represented by the receding galaxies; and (vii) the outermost field of space representing infinity.
The Relativity of Time
Dr. Mansour Hassab-Elnaby, in a paper entitled: 'A New Astronomical Quranic Method for the Determination of the Greatest Speed C', asserts that the Quran establishes a time/space reference system, which is indicative of the relativity of time and the constancy of the speed of light (represented by 'C' in scientific notation). Albert Einstein used these concepts to establish his well-known 'field equations' which provide the mathematical explanation for the interaction of matter, energy, space and time in the universe. The basis of Dr. Hassab-Elnaby’s paper is the Quranic verse which means: "He arranges [each] matter from the heaven to the earth; then it will ascend to Him in a Day, the extent of which is a thousand years of those which you count." [Quran: 32:5]
Thus, the Quran suggests that time is not absolute in the universe, a discovery made only in the early part of the twentieth century. The abovementioned Quranic verse, according to Dr. Hassab-Elnaby, implies a 'cosmic affair' of extremely high speed, making it possible to travel, in one day, the distance the moon travels around the Earth over a period of 1,000 years. The use of the lunar calendar in reckoning Earth time is explicitly stated in the following verse, which means: "…[It is Allaah who made] the moon a derived light and determined for it phases – that you may know the number of years and account [of time]…" [Quran: 10:5]
Furthermore, Dr. Hassab-Elnaby uses the mathematical relationship given in this verse – one day of 'cosmic reckoning' equal to a thousand years of 'Earth reckoning' – along with established scientific data on the movements of the Earth and the moon to calculate the speed which provides a linkage between the two systems of reckoning time. The resulting speed, he points out, is 299,792.458 kilometres per second, which is exactly, to the decimal point, the speed of light recorded by the United States National Bureau of Standards.
The Quran as Part of Universal Order
The correlation between the findings of science in the past century and the Quran highlights the importance of preserving the written word, emphasised in Islam because it bridges space and time, providing inspiration and verification for those separated from direct contact with the Prophet Muhammad and his companions . It has also led some scientists to take a closer look at the Quran.
Dr. Maurice Bucaille of the French Academy of Science, author of 'The Bible, the Koran and Science', states that "…It comes as no surprise to learn that religion and science have always been considered to be twin sisters by Islam and that today, at a time when science has taken such great strides, they continue to be associated. Furthermore, certain scientific data are used for a better understanding of the Quranic text. What is more, in a century where for many scientific truth has dealt a deathblow to religious belief, it is precisely the discoveries of science that, in an objective examination of the Islamic Revelation, have highlighted the supernatural character of certain aspects of the revelation." Islam encourages man’s search for knowledge to both enhance appreciation of the cosmic order and augment his capability to serve as a representative of Allaah in governing the affairs of the Earth. The Quran seems to call attention to the importance of observing the heavens in this search. It states what means: "And We made the sky a protected ceiling, but they, from its signs, turned away." [Quran: 21:32]
Thus, important evidence seems to be emerging in the modern world that the Quran contains revelation which transcends space and time, forming a part of the cosmic order to guide the path of mankind and strengthen the bond between religion and science.
The Quran is the last revelation, and a proof not only to the pagan Arabs one
thousand four hundred years ago, but also to the scientists of today. Perhaps
one of the most remarkable qualities of the Quran for those living nowadays is
the complete consistency between it and many of the discoveries of modern
"The Quran is not only free from contradictions in its narrations, the sign of the various human manipulations to be found in the gospels, but provides a quality all of its own for those who examine it objectively and in the light of science, i.e. its complete agreement with modern scientific data."
Embryology, the issue to be discussed in this part, is one of the most remarkable areas of description in the Noble Quran. The development of the foetus is mentioned in the Quran in some detail. The early stages of which could not have been known at the time of Prophet Muhammad because the size of the foetus at these stages is too small to see with the naked eye, rather a microscope is needed.
The Quran states what means: "What is [the matter] with you that you do not attribute to Allaah [due] grandeur. While He has created you in stages?" [Quran: 71:13-14] And also what means: "And certainly did We create man from an extract of clay. Then We placed him as a sperm-drop ['Nutfah'] in a firm lodging [i.e., in the womb]. Then We made the sperm drop into a clinging clot, and We made the clot into a lump [of flesh], and We made [from] the lump, bones, and We covered the bones with flesh; then We developed him into another creation. So blessed is Allaah, the best of creators." [Quran: 23:12-14]
The use of: "…Extract of clay…" means, in other words, that we are made from the earth.
The word: "…Nutfah…" literally means a 'small drop'.
The description of the next stage as a "…Clinging clot…" accurately represents the stage where the fertilised cell attaches itself to the innermost layer of the uterus by hair-like projections. Another meaning for the Arabic word 'Alaqah' which is used in the Quran, (other than 'clinging clot'), is 'leech like'. This describes the process of implantation in the first few days entirely correctly and is so concise as to use just one word.
The word 'Alaqah' has been also translated as ‘something that clings’.
This only identifies part of the descriptive accuracy of this word. The word has a number of meanings: its root meaning is from the Arabic verb 'Aliqa' which means: "To hang, be suspended, dangle; to stick, cling, cleave adhere to; to catch, get caught or stuck; to be attached, affixed, subjoined." Other forms of the verb have related meanings, such as to be affectionately attached to someone. (Dictionary definitions from Hans- Wehr)
The meanings apply ideally to the process through which the fertilised ovum becomes lodged in the womb.
The noun 'Alaqah' carries the meaning of 'medical leech' and 'blood clot'. The leech is an interesting little creature. The creature is a parasite, which lives on blood, which it sucks out of the body of its host. Not only is this a similar process to what happens to an embryo in the earliest stages, but also in the earliest stages of the embryo it looks remarkably like a leech.
The meaning of a clinging thing can easily be seen in this use of the verbal noun. As for blood clot, it is first necessary to point out that it is the process of clotting or coagulating which brings the idea of clinging to this word and not blood. When blood coagulates, the material is primarily known to be sticky which explains the use of 'Alaqah' for this material. What we have is also a living fluid half way to becoming a soft solid, which is an accurate description of the embryo as the cells which have multiplied until they form a fluid now begin to form tissue structures.
The description of the: "…lump [of flesh]…" 'Mudhghah' is the Arabic word, which also means (chewed flesh) implies something like teeth marks.
This accurately describes the Somite development. The Somites, as Hamilton, Boyd and Mossman say, "Are conspicuous features of embryos in the period under consideration and are readily seen in the surface contour. They are bases from which the greater part of the axial skeleton and musculature are developed".
The age of the embryo is referred to by the number of these Somites since "They form one of its characteristic external features". These features, along with the pharyngeal arches which also appear at this period (four weeks), give the embryo the clear appearance of a chewed lump in which the indentations of teeth are present.
The structure of the embryo, as it develops and gains its form, is primarily skeletal at and before five weeks. That is, what you see in pictures of embryos this age is the bones and a number of semi-translucent organs.
The bones at this stage have structure and form and are easily the most marked and visible feature of the embryo, but they are, of course, not fully calcified (many bones are still in the final calcifying stage into adulthood).
Over the next couple of weeks, a quite definite change takes place in the appearance of an embryo. Instead of bones and organs, all that can be seen now is (the flesh of) a naked body. The embryo begins to look much more human. It is a reference to this, which seems most fitting with the general tone and meaning of (this part of) the verse mentioned above which means: "…And We covered the bones with flesh…"
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